Reminder: the questions posed in this occasional column are written by actual people.
Dear Savy English Teacher Sister,
Concerning the usage of Yea! and Yeah…Am I correct to write “Yea!!! It’s a GNO!!!” and “Yeah, I’ll meet you at 6 a.m. for a long run.” (The first as an expression of excitment, and the other as the the slang of yes.) I see various forms on FB and want to be sure I am expressing myself correctly. Your expertise is appreciated!
Exclamation Point Girl!!
Dear Exclamation Point Girl!!,
If you are going to begin a letter to the Savvy Sister with a sentence fragment, particularly a letter about grammar, please post a bold warning at the top in case I haven’t yet had my coffee. My smelling salts are not always at hand, you know.
In reference to your question, let me first congratulate you on asking it. THIS STUFF MATTERS, PEOPLE! It is a tiny little harkening of the forthcoming apocalypse that the modern generation doesn’t care about grammar. Why does it matter? For starters, it’s the basis for the way we communicate with each other. More philosophically, it’s an art form – an ever-evolving, fluid method of expression. Grammar rules give us a common base, a solid foundation from which writers and orators often build their own unique houses and structures. Without that foundation, the houses collapse into messy heaps of words and commas.
Practically, proper grammar and spelling can help propel people toward their goals. Employers aren’t fond of applicants who use “u” in place of “you” in their emails. And don’t get me started on the people who use an apostrophe to falsely indicate plurality. (Think Welcome to the Smith’s). GAW! It’s like an itch I can’t scratch.
Now, if you consider yourself a bad speller, or someone easily confused about grammar rules, fear not: it is not a crime to be a bad speller. But it is a terrible crime to not know you’re a bad speller, or to be so apathetic about proper writing that you use your and you’re interchangeably.
As an example, the Savvy Sister hereby publicly admits that she, too, has had questions regarding yea and yeah. That’s why she uses the clever ya, pronounced y-AH, like a German person would say (although that is properly spelled ja), or yep, as slang for yes, and the always delightful Whee! as a sign of excitement.
But I researched the matter, and have some answers for you.
To answer in the slang affirmative, you should use the word yeah. Example:
Child: Mom, can I have an ice cream sandwich?
Mom: Yeah, have whatever you want, just let me take a nap.
To express your excitement about something, use the word yay. I know, I know, this was unexpected. Example:
Babysitter: Yeah, I can be there by 5.
Mom: Yay! Yay, yay, yay!
As for the word yea, here’s where you can impress your friends.
Yea, pronounced the same way as yay, can be used as either an adverb, similar to truly or indeed, or as a noun, referring to an affirmative vote. Examples:
She hurried, yea, ran to the bar to order a drink before happy hour ended.
They voted on the bill to extend the elementary school calendar, and the yeas won.
I hope this has helped, dear Exclamation Point Girl!! And thank you again for posing the question. You helped give the Savvy Sister a grammar lesson today, and that’s not easy to do. Yay!
Peace out, peeps.
the Savvy Sister